Rough start leads to UC Bearcats baseball elimination in Big 12 tournament by Texas Tech

Faced with another elimination game in the Big 12 tournament at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas the Cincinnati Bearcats picked the wrong night to have a rough start.

Strapped for pitching, the Bearcats had to start Michael Conte for the first time all season. Conte had primarily been a reliever, but playing on consecutive days in the Big 12 can take its toll.

In the first two innings, Texas Tech touched up Conte for eight runs on six hits and that was enough as the Red Raiders sent the Bearcats home 10-5.

"I thought Mike threw the ball pretty well, a couple soft-contact base hits, then it snowballed a little bit," UC head coach Jordan Bischel said. "True to our guys, we didn't implode, we didn't melt down."

Role players brought to press conference

An emotional Bischel brought reserves Cole Harting, Sean Springer and Kameron Guidry to the interview room with him. None of them played in the game.

"We had a lot more players that could help this team than I had spots in the lineup," Bischel said. "We have three guys here that have done tremendous things for this program and didn't get a chance to show it this year. These guys are special human beings. If anyone has the question, how did we do what we did this year? It doesn't happen without these guys showing up with an incredible attitude and enthusiasm."

Bischel then turned to the players and told them they didn't know what they meant to him.

"It might not have been what we were used to or we wanted, but being part of a team like this was special," Guidry said. "It was something we never got a taste of and never really imagined."

Red Raiders strike early and often

Gage Harrelson and Damian Bravo led off the game with singles, then a Kevin Bazzell ground-rule double plated the game's first run before Conte had recorded an out. Texas Tech would never trail.

They had five runs in the first and three more in the third giving starter Ryan Free a comfortable lead for the evening. Free would go 6 2/3 innings allowing four hits and three runs for the victory as the No. 10 seed Red Raiders took down the No. 5 seed Bearcats.

Bearcat bullpen strong in loss

After Conte, Joey Hurth, Chase Horst, Drew Erdmann and game one starter Nathan Taylor held Texas Tech to just two hits and two runs over the final 7 1/3 innings. But, UC had just five hits on the night which is not conducive to winning tournament baseball games.

Along came Jones

Catcher Alec Jones went out with a bang for UC, walloping two home runs and collecting three of UC's five hits. He drove in four of the five runs. Lauden Brooks and Luke Sefcik were the only other Bearcats to collect a hit.

Kerrington Cross and the Cincinnati Bearcats had just five hits on the night as they fell short against Texas Tech in the Big 12 tournament 10-5. UC is now 32-25 and will await any postseason news.
Kerrington Cross and the Cincinnati Bearcats had just five hits on the night as they fell short against Texas Tech in the Big 12 tournament 10-5. UC is now 32-25 and will await any postseason news.

What now?

UC baseball's RPI was 55 prior to the start of the game according to DI Baseball. That figure will likely change with the loss and affect their NCAA chances.

The 32 wins by the Bearcats is the most since their 31-win 2019 season when they advanced to the NCAA tournament with the automatic berth from the American Athletic Conference.

"It was the best year I ever had," Sean Springer said. "Having fun with my guys every day."

Both Baseball America and DI Baseball had UC among the "first four out" of the NCAA tournament before Thursday night's affair in Arlington. Official bids are awarded on Memorial Day, May 27.

"This was a statement year and put Cincinnati on the map a little bit," Harting said. "It was a group of guys I didn't think would ever bond and we did. We found a way to do it and found a way to win games."

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: UC Bearcats baseball knocked out of Big 12 tourney by Texas Tech